Wednesday, 1 June 2011


You will not get pinned!

Remember that Roland Emmerich movie 2012, where John Cusack outran a Super-Volcano? Right, well remember how there was the step-dad pilot who repeatedly saved Cusack's family over and over only to be rewarded by being crushed by a massive wheel and nobody giving a shit? Well that was Tom McCarthy, the supremely talented writer-director of Win-Win. A kinder reminder of his acting career would be to point out he was also crooked journalist Scott Templeton in the final season of The Wire. Anyway, McCarthy's film previous to this was The Visitor, a fantastic character piece in which Richard Jenkins befriends a married illegal immigrant couple squatting in his second home. Jenkins received an Oscar nomination, but in a way it was McCarthy's work that stood out the most, a subtle but forceful director who drew tremendous weight out of the quieter moments.

Win Win is altogether a less bleak film then The Visitor, and perhaps a bit less impactful as a consequence, but its still classy, high quality indie film making. While McCarthy's films have the tendency to be slightly revel in misery at times, this one sees him take a more light-hearted, warmer tack, and its something he succeeds with. It helps that it has Paul Giamatti as its lead, an actor so inherently likable and entertaining you could watch him anything. Giamatti plays a down on his luck Lawyer/wrestling coach, who ends up being surrogate father to a delinquent teen who's grandfather he represents. I liked the film a lot for its coolness. There's drama but it pleasingly avoids the hysterical, and is quite affecting in its own way. Giamatti is terrific, and he and Amy Ryan have a terrific chemistry together. Former teen wrestler Alex Shaffer gives a fantastic account of himself in what it his first acting role of any kind. You'd think he'd been doing it for years. Supporting-wise there's a broad turn by Bobby Cannavale, and a better one by Jeffrey Tambor.

McCarthy has developed a specific language for his films. They are quiet yet involving, emotional yet not overly sentimental, and always contain fantastic acting across the board. Between this, The Visitor and The Station Agent, McCarthy must be pretty high on the indie movie hierarchy by now although the mainstream leanings of Win Win might diminish his credibility in that department. This is after all, an underdog sports movie. Just one that eschews cliche's in favor of pathos.

Rating: 7/10

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